Back in Africa! This is my 3rd time in the place “I love” and so far it has been as special as ever, for some reason it has this impact on you were you get this overwhelming feeling of happiness and fun. I was emotional leaving family and friends in Belfast. A month seems like a long time away from home until your in it and let me tell you it goes so fast it's unbelievable. We have done a lot of different things since we've been here, a lot of different experiences. One being in a completely different township Called Thembalethu, Here we have been working with the Square project. The two women that run the project and their volunteers are completely committed to the young people they work with. It is amazing to see their values and the young people having a support mechanism one which a lot of them don't have at home or school. They provide some medical care and feed the young people every day and if there isn't enough for everyone they make it be enough. The attitude is if one young person eats every young person eats no matter what. They have taught the young people not to beg and that they must work hard to reap the rewards. So the young people must collect as much recyclable material as possible and they can exchange this for tokens that they can buy ice pops with or if they have enough tokens then exchange them for some clothing from the charity shop that the 2 women also run. They do all this and manage a full shopping Centre looking after the accounts and other things. The young People of this project are different to the young people of Blanco, it was a fresh start in a new situation a chance to build those relationship with new young people and make more memories. I got a Chance to get to know one young person in particular, Jayden a girl aged 9 who is without a doubt the best fighter in the project boys and girls of all ages lol. But I looked past that and seen a strong young women who sticks up for herself and doesn't let anyone push her around but also a kind hearted girl who shared everything. So innocent but knew to much, when I was 9 I didn't know anything other than running about with my friends. It's hard to compare this and I think it's wrong to compare it. I think it's about relating your feelings not your situation show empathy and encourage someone who is in the roughest of situations but still sees the silver lining in the clouds, the light in the dark and the the hope in the hopelessness, You can't help but admire this. This project will help make the new teams coming out here gain a different experience and want a experience it will be. I believe we have made the most of our time here we have travelled to different places like Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth and even done the worlds highest bridge bungee jump which was scary good. This I believe is what sets this trip apart from the rest. Your first time in South Africa is what people say "your best time" because you come in with a fresh mind not knowing what to expect but by trying new things and doing new things. The team have been brilliant out here the combination of different experiences and Tori fresh one has been brilliant old memories coming to light and stories being told throughout is outstanding. As well as getting the work done, we have had our disagreements but it has always been sorted out and put to bed. I think back to our first week here sitting up at Otinineqa mountain which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. We even went up it at night, it is remarkable. However I remember sitting taking everything in and it just felt right I was in the right place at the right time, I felt like I was at home where I'm meant to be.
My journey to South Africa with Belfast 2 Blanco started back in 2014 and it has lasted right up until this very minute. It’s been a journey alright with ups and downs when your not here your thinking about being here. It’s hard when you love a place so much but your experience here is short and sweet you never feel you have enough time or resources to make a big enough impact, but you have to look past this and realise your here for “X” amount of time with “X” amount of resources. Therefore use it, and use what you have there to put every ounce of your time, commitment and energy into this place. Looking at the bigger picture your in one out of a possibly hundreds of townships in South Africa your a drop in the ocean in the big picture. But what your doing can make a difference, how big or how small it doesn't matter, the point is for 15 seconds you might just be able to spark a thought in someone's head or make a child's day by spending some time with them listening to them, playing with them or just by showing them some affection. This is powerful and I never think we will understand how amazing and special this is. It may be for that short time, but you are trying and that's all that matters, so many others the SA government don't care but we do and that is better than nothing anything you offer is better than nothing at all. I remind myself this everyday I wake up here or I'm in the township asking myself “is what we're doing here really worth it”? And the answer every single time is yes, because what we offer and what we do is better than sitting there watching and knowing we have something to give. This is the same back home in work and in personal life you don't have to be the best at everything to make a impact, you just have to try and put your time in and no matter what it's better than being a bystander. "If your not contributing to the solution your part of the problem" I have been very fortunate to experience this place with 2 out of 3 of my best mates, there is not many people who can say that and to experience it with Pierce has been completely unreal the memories and laughs we have had here will add to the life long ones we already have, I am lucky and I know that.
Blanco Driving into Blanco for the first time again is like a whole new sense of excitement that you haven't felt before driving up that hill. Seeing everyone and all the kids and adults getting on with their days and lives. But you get a warm feeling that touches your heart, you can't explain it on paper or put it into words. You have to feel it to know. When I wrote earlier about Jayden having that attitude of seeing the sliver lining, I relate this to Blanco, because the people of here give me this feeling especially two young kids Naya and Lisa. I see them running about chasing after me getting glass caught in their bare feet and still running on laughing. They have this attitude and it's inspiring to me and they help me see this, a 19 year old man from Ardoyne, Belfast standing in a park in Blanco South Africa watching this happen is magical. I find myself being more reflective and more critical of my thoughts and what I am thinking. I talk about purpose, I have lost count of how many times I have asked myself what am I doing here what is my purpose? And times I have been lost not knowing the answer. Thinking to myself I'm out here to be a volunteer, and help do some good in South Africa. This is part and parcel of what goes with it, but I think by watching this and feeling this I understand that we sometimes come here and show sympathy for some of the kids. To the people of Blanco I feel this is ignorant of us, when it should be the young people who should feel sorry for us. Yes that might seem a bit far, but we have all the materialistic things in the world walking into that township and the kids love to see it and dreaming of having it. But they are happy and optimistic running about a park in their bare feet chasing you having a game of "Tip" and that's happiness. I did this as a kid and I had the best childhood ever, you look back home kids stuck on iPads and phones so I think it should be them kids in Blanco who always have a smile on their face when you see them should feel sorry for us we are used to having the luxury and materialistic things, and sometimes we forget the basic elements of having fun, being a kid and enjoying life. We don't need this and that to be happy, we need good people around us and that's it really. I feel love for the people of Blanco not sympathy. It will always have a special place in heart no matter what happens. As the trip narrows to an end, I reflect back on every aspect of it and I come to a conclusion, I don't want to go home lol. All good things come to a end, but what i have been able to take away over the past 3 years from Blanco, is this. “That here there is always hope, and if your lost and need get back to what makes you be yourself. Then what better place better than in the middle of a field, in a township of Blanco, South Africa. It sounds stupid to some, but to those reading this who know who have been, saw and felt you will understand what I'm writing about. To those of you who are preparing to do so, then you are the luckiest people on earth in my opinion, the only advice I can give is this “embrace everything and don't hold back, for it goes quicker than you will ever know”.
"Do your little bit of good where you are, it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”